We are all getting a little impatient for the Pittsburgh Penguins offseason to begin. They haven’t played a game in nearly one month, but nor have the Penguins tore up the NHL trade market, been engaged in high-profile trade chases, or otherwise made a move.
That’s not a criticism or a report that Penguins GM Ron Hextall is sitting on his hands. It is an acknowledgment that a few weeks away from the Seattle Kraken expansion draft and the questions don’t yet have answers, nor do we have many clues.
As part of Michael Russo’s report that the Minnesota Wild began trade talks for Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel, Minnesota GM Bill Guerin admitted it is unlikely trades will happen until after the July 21 expansion draft.
In other words, buckle in for a few more weeks before all hell breaks loose. Guerin reads the market as well as anyone and has done a remarkable job with a cap-strapped team that wasn’t very good. They pushed Vegas to seven games this season.
But the questions surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins persist.
Q1: What about Sam Poulin and Nathan Legare?
Should the Penguins need additional forward depth, their top two forward prospects Sam Poulin and Nathan Legare, offer a good bit of hope for the future.
Take this as my insight, I see Poulin as a solid third-liner, and there isn’t much chance he’ll miss. He may be a fourth-liner if his skating doesn’t match the pro game, but he has a complete game.
Poulin is 6-foot-2, 213 pounds, so size isn’t a problem. He also played both wings at the junior level.
Legare will take more seasoning in the AHL before he lands in the NHL. He won’t be ready as quickly because he has a power forward sniper game, and he will need time to learn where to be and how to find space to unleash his wicked wrister.
Legare has a real chance to be a top-six winger. His skating dramatically improved this season. The hip-twists skating style was streamlined, and he got to his spots much quicker.
He’s got a chip on his shoulder and an edge to his game, but don’t plan on his arrival in 2021-22.
PHN will be doing in-depth scouting reports with QMJHL scouts and video in the coming weeks. For now, don’t plan on either making an impact, at least at the start of the season. But…if it happens, bonus Penguins.
Q2: The playoffs teams have great goalies. Don’t the Penguins need to upgrade their goalie?
I’ve been surprised by the undersell on Tristan Jarry. The guy made the All-Star game one season ago. He brilliantly stole a handful of games this season.
He stunk in the playoffs.
But refer back to the first paragraph. Is Semyon Varlamov or Marc-Andre Fleury significantly better than Jarry? Well, Fleury is certainly better, sometimes. Otherwise, Jarry is a good goalie who whiffed at his first big chance. He’s not the first.
The Stanley Cup Final goalies Andrei Vesilevskiy and Carey Price are certainly better than Jarry. But go ahead–find an available goalie in their league. There are only one or two other goalies in that class, and teams don’t readily give them up (*cue the John Gibson replies, but that’s a long shot).
The Penguins are solid in net. They could use a playoff experienced goalie in the mix should Jarry whiff again, but Casey DeSmith is also a low-paid, capable puck stopper. So, there’s no desperation to fill that need until the 2022 NHL trade deadline.
Q3: Why don’t they trade Malkin and Letang?
Stop it already.
Q4: Which Pittsburgh Penguins are most likely to be traded?
This is an easy question. Start at the top of the salary scale, skip the big three, and start there. Jake Guentzel and Jason Zucker make $11.5 million combined. Marcus Pettersson makes over $4 million.
I didn’t include John Marino because he is a young defenseman (who got paid very early in his career). His career trajectory is probably closer to his rookie year than his sophomore year. Still, his trade value would be closer to his sophomore year. He’s also one of those d-men who could grow to become more physical, too. Nothing is impossible, but it doesn’t seem likely unless the Penguins get a sweet return.
The Penguins both have big trade chips, but not many of them. Some readers and YouTube viewers have asked about Bryan Rust. To that, I’d say–no way. That low salary ($3.5 million) combined with that production and his gritty game? You keep that.